Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Deciphering Sorabji’s Handwriting

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s handwriting is very often extremely difficult to decipher, especially in later years, when the composer suffered from arthritis. Some of his words sometimes defy the expertise of people with years of experience in reading his handwriting. Here are examples of contexts that make the task very arduous:

  • Words containing ascenders or descenders in more or less the same position, for example, virtues and witness.
  • Words consisting of two or three letters, for example,
    • us, we
    • but, cars, ears, him, now, was
  • Proximity of letters with ascenders and letters with descenders.
  • Words with the same number of letters or the same outline, for example,
    • get/yet
    • was/now
    • afar/upon
    • love/been
    • boast/toast
    • works/wants
    • live/true
    • being/having
    • leaving/tearing
    • looks/books
    • pages/paper
    • scarce/source
  • Close similarity between letters, for example, m, n, u, v, w.
  • Space or horizontal line between groups of ligatured letters, which makes it difficult to determine whether a ligature is a short word or the first syllable of a longer word, for example, opera/upon a.

This page offers a handy classification of the letters of the alphabet into categories based on their aspect as a handy tool. It is often helpful to have the table below at hand when transcribing a document can often help.

Other tools are (1) the More Words website, which makes it possible to replace illegible single letters with a hyphen, groups of letters with an asterisk and generate a list of possible matches, and (2) the Spell Utility that comes with Corel WordPerfect, which does the same thing using its dictionary.

Letters Grouped by Shapes

Click on a column heading to sort, then shift-click on other headings to sort on multiple columns.
Surround strings with quotation marks for specific searches. Refresh the page to revert to the initial order.

Shapes Matching Letters
Shapes Matching Letters
Lowercase letters abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Letters without descenders a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, z
Letters with ascenders b, d, f, h, k, l, t
Letters with descenders g, j, p, y, (z)
Letters with ascenders and descenders (f)
Letters with an “o” shape a, b, c, d, g, o, p, q
Narrow letters i, j, l, t
Wide letters m, (n), w
Last modified: 2024-03-05
© Marc-André Roberge 2024
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

The contents of this website dedicated to the English composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji may be freely used for documentary purposes in a research context, provided that due credit is given, but may not be mirrored on any other server. Links to external or third-party websites are not guaranteed to be or remain valid or persistent and their content is not guaranteed to be or remain accurate or appropriate.

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